Sceptically Fit

16/05/2012

The Obesity Epidemic

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 10:59

There’s a new HBO documentary coming out looking at the obesity epidemic in America. And Gary Taubes picks holes in it

But when David Wallinga of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy tells us in The Weight of the Nation that the USDA has established the cause of the obesity epidemic and it’s “an increase in our calorie consumption over the last 30, 35 years,” he also tells us where those calories come from: a quarter come from added sugars, a quarter from added fats (“most of which are from soy”), and “almost half is from refined grains, mainly corn starches, wheat, and the like.” What Wallinga doesn’t say is that the same USDA data clearly shows that red-meat consumption peaked in this country in the mid-1970s, before the obesity epidemic started. It’s been dropping ever since, consistent with a nation that has been doing exactly what health authorities have been telling it to do.

If The Weight of the Nation accomplishes anything, it’s communicating the desperation of obese Americans trying to understand their condition and, even more, of lean (or relatively lean) parents trying to cope with the obesity of their offspring. Lack of will isn’t their problem. It’s the absence of advice that might actually work. If our authorities on this subject could accept that maybe their fundamental understanding of the problem needs to be rethought, we and they might begin to make progress. Clearly the conventional wisdom has failed so far. We can hold onto it only so long.

29/01/2012

The wonderful web – a week of links

Filed under: Exercise, Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 20:54

What a week of interesting stories:

As a long time user of lip balms and lipstick, I’ve heard the complaints – lip balm is addictive. Its seems the answer is maybe psychologically.

Opt for a plain balm with a petrolatum, beeswax, or oil-based lubricating cream, and avoid lip products that contain chemicals such as menthol, camphor, or phenol (they may irritate skin more!). One final piece of advice: Be sure to apply balm only when lips are chapped— normal lips don’t necessarily need extra moisture! One study found that when moisturizers were used on normal (a.k.a. not dry) skin, it increased skin susceptibility to irritants [3] [4]. If lips aren’t normally chapped, it may be better not to start applying lip balm at all

Conditioning Research posts on the increasing evidence linking sleep deprivation and obesity:

Observational studies have observed cross-sectional associations between short sleep duration (generally <6 h per night) and increased body mass index or obesity, prevalent diabetes, and prevalent hypertension. Some studies also reported an association between self-reported long sleep duration (generally >8 h per night) and cardiometabolic disease. A few prospective studies have found a significant increased risk of weight gain, incident diabetes, and incident hypertension associated with inadequate sleep.

While this is still to be understood, the assumption is that lack of sleep causes stress, and high cortisol levels are a cause of obesity. As some who has both struggled with insomnia and weight in the past, this is concerning – as it can become a vicious cycle. Part of my insomnia is related to restless leg syndrome and night cramps – something a paleo diet with magnesium supplements has helped alleviate. But then there are nights that you can’t turn your mind off. Seth’s blog has been running an ongoing look at the effects of Vitamin D3 supplementation and its role on sleep.

A month ago I blogged about a “stunning discovery”: Primal Girl’s sleep got much better when she took Vitamin D3 in the early morning instead of much later (afternoon or evening). Others pointed out a similar observation: Taking Vitamin D3 in the evening caused insomnia. These observations suggest that Vitamin D3 resembles sunlight in its effect on sleep: morning exposure good, evening exposure bad. Sunlight, of course, is hard to control and sometimes hard to get (which is why Primal Girl tried Vitamin D3). Sunlight is also time-consuming: it takes an hour to get one hour of sunlight. The timing and dosage of Vitamin D3 is much easier to control.

And its starting to look like the need for Vitamin D is becoming part of mainstream health attitudes (or re-becoming).

When I started looking into being healthy agave nectar featured as a healthy natural sweetener. From a vegan perspective, its also considered a good one (though it falls under the we ignore the damage it causes being harvested/grown as long as it doesn’t come directly from an animal). Food renegade looks at how unnatural, processed and unhealthy agave nectar is.

Native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant. It’s called miel de agave, and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Think of it as the Mexican version of authentic Canadian maple syrup. … Agave nectar is not traditional, is highly refined, and actually has more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It is not a “natural” sweetener. … Concentrated fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. When the sugar occurs in nature, it is often called “levulose” and is accompanied by naturally-occurring enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin.  Concentrated fructose, on the other hand, is a man-made sugar created by the refining process.

The importance of removing gluten from the diet is hitting mainstream awareness even if there still is a sense that we should  be eating grains so the real problem with avoiding gluten is missing out. There’s no scientific reason to say people have to eat grains. I realise this is still a new area of study and we don’t have proof of non-coelieac gluten intolerance.

Improvements to a person’s health without gluten can be explained several ways, by placebo effect or by the fact a gluten-free diet removes other agents from the body – most importantly the poorly absorbed carbohydrates known as fructans, which may cause illness or discomfit.

Penny Dellsperger, a dietitian at Coeliac NSW, said there were significant medical risks to people adopting gluten free diets without first ascertaining whether they suffered coeliac disease. She said the symptoms could easily relate to other illnesses.

That’s the only real risk – that people get enough improvement from removing grains that they assume that’s it rather than continuing to investigate the problem and miss another issue. But that doesn’t redeem gluten.

Of course, the anti-anti-gluten argument comes from the assumption that a low-carb diet is unhealthy. We need carbohydrates, yes but even the ketosis fans eat their vegetables. But compared to the pasta and bread folks, we’re all generally much lower carb. Stumptuous reports on studies showing the importance of eating quality protein sources. While Robert Paterson asks us to look at the whole animal before saying meat is too expensive.

But speaking of carbs – just how many do you need to fuel your endurance exercise? And Strength Running offers more guidance on protecting yourself while building endurance.

But before we finish, lets take a look at the charlatans out there. Vaccines are for prostitutes, according to one acupuncturist. I suppose when your entire field is based on magical thinking, things like cancer only happen to people you think deserve it. And more evidence that the cure is worse than the disease – at least when your cure is made up without evidence as is chiropractic treatments and yoga. Sure there’s a couple of thousand years between their invention, but they both still come from a far from scientific understanding of how the body works.

22/01/2012

A very prolific week of links…

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:39

Another reason to exercise – it helps your body get rid of damaged or degraded cells.  And while exercise preserves muscle – it only preserves the muscle you use so don’t stop the full body routines… and sorry to disappoint – stretching doesn’t stop the doms.

How to ensure good gut health.

A new study suggests the marathon won’t kill you (if you’ve trained for it). Mark Sisson gives some advice on combining weight training with running, and here are some more tips to run faster.

A study postulating that most of humanity evolved with carbohydrate scarcity causing a greater insulin resistance to be selected for which is now what presupposes many ethnic groups for type2 diabetes.

Looking into the wider animal kingdom – researchers have discovered predators will hunt to ensure a nutritionally balanced diet.

Morning People – that’s as good as you’re going to be. Me, my brain’s just warming up!

Conditioning Research takes a look at the importance of sleep and its effect on obesity.

Evolvify takes a look at the (lack of) evidence behind the women like alpha males theory in pickup culture.

Despite being the ready energy source of many – another study suggests avoiding carbohydrates will help you stay awake.

Lifehacker looks at the science behind a bad mood.

From Not Just a Man’s World – a look at a study on the effects of resistance training on flexibility for young women.

Loren Cordain answers a few questions on the paleo diet – its going to take me a while to get through his paper on Cereal Grains.

A good reminder of the power of the placebo.

04/10/2011

Misguided Attempts to Help

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 17:50

Unhealthy food needs to be taxed more – but it needs to actually taking unhealthy food, not good basics like butter, full-fat milk, cream and especially not meat! Target processed food, target sugary and starchy foods! And of course, ban trans-fat! That’s one thing the Danes got right.

The government will consider introducing a “fat tax” to tackle Britain’s growing obesity levels, the prime minister, David Cameron, has said.

Cameron said drastic action was needed to prevent health costs soaring and life expectancy falling.

Under measures introduced in Denmark recently, a surcharge is being placed on foods that contain more than 2.3% saturated fat. The levy targets high-fat products such as butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food.

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